Pixel Scroll 6/16/20 We’re Two Lost Scrolls On The Pixel Of Life

(1) OKORAFOR ON BBC. BBC World Service’s program In the Studio features “Nnedi Okorafor: Creating sci-fi worlds”.

The award-winning science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor always has a project—or three—on the go. From her home outside Chicago she creates stories driven by what she describes as Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism for children and adults -a legacy of her Nigerian roots. Her work now ranges across comics for Marvel, screenplays and yet another new novel due out in the summer. 

But she wasn’t always destined to be a writer. She spent her youth training hard to be a top class athlete until she developed curvature of the spine, which put an end to her dreams. After corrective surgery she became temporarily paralysed and it was then, during her darkest time, that she began to create stories. 

Now, as Chicago, like the rest of the US endures lockdown, Nnedi’s been adapting to her changed life and restricted movements. Mark Burman talks to her about her work and how her creative process has been affected during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

During recordings made in April and early May he eavesdrops on some of her writing moments including her fruitful collaboration with the Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu and their story of an A.I. traffic police robot—and hears about the therapeutic distraction of her trumpet-playing daughter and magnificent cat which now has his own Twitter account! 

(2) Q&A AND SLF. The Speculative Literature Foundation has been posting interviews Mary Anne Mohanraj conducted with sff writers at various conventions on their YouTube channel this month.

  • Scott Woods
  • Kate Elliott
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Vida Cruz

(3) ULTRAMAN. Marvel’s The Rise Of Ultraman #1 hits stands this September, featuring a cover by Alex Ross. Ultraman has been a pop culture staple since the franchise debuted in the 1960s, and his stories have been depicted on both the page and the screen – and the 2007 Hugo base.

…Storytelling masters Kyle Higgins (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Winter Soldier) and Mat Groom (Self/Made), together with superstar artists Francesco Manna (Avengers, Fantastic Four) Michael Cho (Captain America) and Gurihiru (The Unstoppable Wasp) will take fans back into the days of darkness, where the terrifying Kaiju lurk….

“Across the globe, Ultraman is as iconic and well-recognized a character as Spider-Man or Iron Man, so when the opportunity arose for us to introduce his mythos to a new generation, as seen through the Marvel lens, we didn’t take that responsibility lightly,” said Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “For fans of the classic 1966 series, there’ll be plenty of Easter eggs that you’ll recognize. But for those who’ve never experienced an Ultraman story before, this series will start at square one—launching an epic showdown fit for the modern age.”

“With release of Marvel’s The Rise of Ultraman series, Tsuburaya Productions and our partners at Marvel Comics are taking ULTRAMAN a massive step forward onto the global stage,” said Tsuburaya CEO Takayuki Tsukagoshi. “Marvel’s rendering of the ULTRAMAN story has been faithfully created with the highest level of respect, quality and creativity resulting in a storyline that expands the ULTRAMAN universe.”

(4) RESOUNDING. Marc Laidlaw, is busy on his YouTube channel, too. He’s been reading short stories and posting them for a few months, but just today he began posting chapters of his new novel, Underneath The Oversea. It’s the first novel involving his long-running character, Gorlen Vizenfirthe. Marc will be posting all 28 chapters as an audio serial, over the next month or so…however long it takes.

(5) THEY GOT WET. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story  “‘Gremlins 2’ at 30: Director Joe Dante talks ‘crazy, manic movie’ and contributions of Rick Baker and Christopher Lee”, uses a 2015 interview with director Joe Dante, where Dante talks about how special-effects wizard Rick Baker came up with many of the crazy gremlins in Gremlins 2 and how Sir Christopher Lee deserved credit for playing his role as mad scientist “Dr, Catheter” relatively straight.

…“Rick Baker didn’t want to come on if he had to redo [original creator] Chris Walas’s gremlins because what’s in it for him? And so to induce him, we changed the story so that there was a genetics lab run by Christopher Lee,” Dante says of the plot, which finds our furry friend Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) once again spawning dangerous offspring, this time in a Manhattan skyscraper. “They turned the gremlins into different kinds of gremlins. So all the designs and ideas that Rick had, we could come up with and we could make different kinds of gremlins out of them. And plus he changed the designs of Gizmo and the regular gremlins a little bit.” 

This Key & Peele takeoff about the Gremlins sequel is funny:

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 16, 1896 Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 Retro-Hugo winning “First Contact” novella which is one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator in science fiction. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born June 16, 1920 – Ted Dikty.  Active fan from 1938; with Bob Formanek, fanzine Fantasy Digest; headed Indiana Fantasy Ass’n, published IFA Review; also 1940 Who’s Who in Fandom, see a PDF scan of it here – no, really, do see it; even more interesting from our perspective.  Worked on Chicon I and II (2nd and 10th Worldcons).  Married Julian May (she chaired Chicon II), each developing pro careers.  With Everett Bleiler, our first annual “best” series, Best SF Stories 1949 and five more, Year’s Best SF Novels 1952 and two more; also Imagination Unlimited. Then alone, Best SF Stories 1955 through 1958, several more e.g. Great SF Stories About MarsGreat SF Stories About the MoonWorlds Within Worlds.  With Robert Reginald, The Work of Julian May.  Sampo Award (given 1970-1980 for services to fandom).  Co-founded Shasta Publishers and Starmont House.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1924 Faith Domergue. Dr. Ruth Adams in the classic Fifties This Island Earth. She has a number of later genre roles, Professor Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jill Rabowski in Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man) and Dr. Marsha Evans in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet. She amazingly did no genre television acting. (Died 1999) (CE)
  • Born June 16, 1925 – Jean d’Ormesson.  More fully Jean Bruno Wladimir François de Paule Le Fèvre d’Ormesson, a count of France; his father the Marquis of Ormesson was Ambassador to Brazil.  Starting 1956, fifty books, novels, plays; in 1971 alternative history The Glory of the Empire – full of detail, all fictional – won the Grand Prix du roman (as novels are called in French; tr. English 1974, Amazon has a Kindle edition here) of the Academie Française; in 1973 its youngest member; in 2009 its longest-serving member and dean.  Both staunch on the Right politically and a good friend of socialist Mitterrand; played M in film comedy Haute Cuisine about M’s chef.  Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.  Officer, National Order of Merit.  Ovid prize (Romania).  Macron called him “the best of the French spirit … intelligence, elegance, and mischief”.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1938 Joyce Carol Oates, 82. No Hugos but she has garnered a World Fantasy Award in Short Fiction for “Fossil-Figures”, and has won more Stokers than I thought possible, the latest one for her most excellent collection of horror and dark fantasy stories,  The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror. She has written pure SF in the form of Hazards of Time Travel which is quite good. (CE) 
  • Born June 16, 1940 Carole Ford, 80. She played the granddaughter and original companion of the First Doctor. She reprised the role for The Five Doctors, the Dimensions in Time charity special, and of course for The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her first genre role was as Bettina in The Day of the Triffids, and she had an earlier role as an uncredited teen in the hall of mirrors in Horrors of the Black Museum. (CE)
  • Born June 16, 1939 David McDaniel. A prolific writer of Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels penning seven of them, with such names as The Vampire Affair and The Hallow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director and Scribe, writing for various APAs (he aspired to be in all of them) and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” for his financial support of the club. (Died 1977) (CE)
  • Born June 16, 1958 – Don Sakers.  Half a dozen novels, two dozen shorter stories; the Reference Library in Analog since 2009; Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three and three more anthologies; SF Book of Days. [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1963 – Robert Beatty.  Pioneer in cloud computing.  Co-founded Beatty Robotics with two daughters.  Narrative magazine 2005-2013.  Champion sabre fencer; licensed wildlife rehabilitator; Website shows him and wife with wedding-puppies (they lure-coursed whippets).  Four novels about Serafina secretly in the basement of the Biltmore estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the first two and Willa of the Wood being New York Times Best Sellers.  Here is his cover for his Dream Dance artbook about Ed Emshwiller.  [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1969 – Hélène Boudreau.  Acadian author of children’s books, a dozen so far; four for us about real mermaids e.g. they don’t sell seashells.  “I’m a compulsive walker and train for half marathons and also love dark chocolate, bacon, and Perrier water (in that order).”  [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1972 Andy Weir, 48. His debut novel, The Martian, was adapted into a film directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary, the latter which is forthcoming. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal“ which is only available as an Audible audiobook. (CE) 
  • Born June 16, 1981 – Salla Simukka.  Critic, editor, reviewer, scriptwriter for Finnish Broadcasting Co.  Translator of books into Finnish as well as writing Finnish versions; a dozen of her own so far, three for us (As Red as BloodAs White as SnowAs Black as Ebony put Snow White into Finnish – told Sumukka’s way: see the 27 Sep 13 Publishers Weekly).  Topelius Prize, Finland Prize.  I couldn’t attend the Helsinki (75th) Worldcon; did you?  Did you meet her?  [JH] 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) UNDER THE DOME. Warner Bros. passed on the invitation to be part of the online San Diego Comic-Con. Instead, they’ll host their own DC FanDome, a free, global, 24-hour virtual convention taking place on August 22.

SYFY Wire has distilled the press release: “DC Sets 24-Hour ‘Fandome’ Event With Wonder Woman 1984, The Batman, Snyder Cut And More”.

With San Diego Comic-Con set to be held online this year due to the global pandemic, Warner Bros. is making its own plans to show off its movies, TV shows and everything else. Needless to say, the studio won’t be sitting out the annual pop culture convention scene. Far from it.

The studio has decided to host its own free-of-charge virtual event in late August called “DC FanDome.” It’s basically a 24-hour Hall H livestream during which the company will tease out its most anticipated comic book projects like Wonder Woman 1984The BatmanBlack AdamThe Suicide SquadSuperman & Lois, and the Snyder Cut of Justice League.

“The global event will immerse fans into the DC Multiverse, with new announcements from WB Games, Film and TV, and comics, as well as an unprecedented opportunity to hear from the casts and creators behind your favorite feature films and TV series,” reads the release.

(9) SPOT ON THE MONEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Until now, if you wanted your very own Spot the Robot Dog you had to lease one. No longer. You now have the option to buy your very own Spot from maker Boston Dynamics, assuming you have about $75K to spare. You can even pick up a pair of them, but no more than that for now. WIRED has the story: “You Can Now Buy Spot the Robot Dog—If You’ve Got $74,500”.

Spot, Boston Dynamics’ famous robot dog, dutifully follows my every command. The machine traipses forward, then automatically scrambles over a raised bed of rocks. I make it side-step. I command it up a flight of stairs, which it tackles with ease. It meets its match when I steer it at a medicine ball, though; it takes a tumble, and for a moment lies paralyzed on its back. But with a click of a button, Spot twists and rights itself, and recommences its ramblings.

Such unfailing obedience, yet I’m nowhere near Spot, which is roaming about the company’s testing grounds in Boston. I’m piloting the robot through my web browser from the comfort of my apartment in San Francisco, 3,000 miles away. With almost zero latency, I either use the robot’s front camera feed to click on bits of terrain—think of it like scooting around in Google’s Street View—or flicking my keyboard’s WASD keys in the most expensive videogame imaginable….

(10) KEEPING BUSY. “Star Trek: Next Generation fan rebuilds bridge set” – BBC video.

One model maker could have reached the final frontier of construction with his latest work.

Geoff Collard, from Paulton in Somerset, has spent 500 hours recreating the bridge set from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

His model has won praise from Star Trek fans for its realism.

(11) TREK MAKE-OVER. William Shatner hasn’t lost his touch for cringe-inducing tweets – but the photo gallery is intriguing.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Darrah Chavey, Lise Andreasen, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/20 Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Time Enough For Love Potions Numbers 7, 8 And 9

(1) ON YOUR MARX. If this Scroll is posted in time, you can make it to Mark Evanier’s livestream Newsfromme.tv Conversations with Steve Stoliar, starting tonight at 7 p.m. Pacific:

In addition to being a comedy writer and voice actor, Steve Stoliar had the unique experience of being Groucho Marx’s personal assistant/secretary during the last years of that great comedian’s life. Mark Evanier talks with him about Groucho, the controversial Erin Fleming and all things Marxian except Karl.

(2) ROWLING’S NEXT. Mackenzie Nichols, in the Variety story, “J.K. Rowling Announces New Children’s Book ‘The Ickabog’” says that Rowling has announced the publication of The Ickabog, which is not part of the Harry Potter universe but is meant for 7-9 olds.  She intends to post a chapter every day at theickabog.com until July 10 and promises that profits from the book will aid COVID-19 relief.

Unlike her spinoff stories “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” or “Quidditch Through the Ages,” “The Ickabog” has no relation to the “Harry Potter” series. And while plot details about “The Ickabog” were scarce, the author said its thematic elements are timeless.

“‘The Ickabog’ is a story about truth and the abuse of power,” Rowling said. “To forestall one obvious question: the idea came to me well over a decade ago, so it isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country.”

At The Ickabog website she says —  

I had the idea for The Ickabog a long time ago and read it to my two younger children chapter by chapter each night while I was working on it. However, when the time came to publish it, I decided to put out a book for adults instead, which is how The Ickabog ended up in the attic. I became busy with other things, and even though I loved the story, over the years I came to think of it as something that was just for my own children.

Then this lockdown happened. It’s been very hard on children, in particular, so I brought The Ickabog down from the attic, read it for the first time in years, rewrote bits of it and then read it to my children again. They told me to put back in some bits they’d liked when they were little, and here we are!

Everyone will be invited to draw for the story, too: The Ickabog Illustration Competition.

The most exciting part, for me, at least, is that I’d like you to illustrate The Ickabog for me. Every day, I’ll be making suggestions for what you might like to draw. You can enter the official competition being run by my publishers, for the chance to have your artwork included in a printed version of the book due out later this year. I’ll be giving suggestions as to what to draw as we go along, but you should let your imagination run wild.

(3) PRIZEWINNER. Naomi Kritzer got a fine write-up in the hometown Pioneer Press: “St. Paul author stunned by success of genre-jumping “CatNet””.

Naomi Kritzer was 4 when she discovered science fiction through the first “Star Wars” film.

“I was grabbed by John Williams’ music, the lightsabers, the magic of The Force. It all appealed to me and sold me on science fiction,” Kritzer recalls.

Now, 43 years later, The Force is with this St. Paul author. Her genre-jumping young adult novel “Catfishing on CatNet, ” about teenagers who befriend a sentient artificial intelligence who lives in the internet, is scooping up major honors. It’s based on her award-winning, 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please.”

Last month Kritzer collected two prestigious awards in three days. She won a Minnesota Book Award on April 28, and on April 30 she won a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. In early May her book was a Silver Winner in the Nautilus Book Awards, which focus on books striving to make a better world….

(4) IRRESISTIBLE ALICE BOOK. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While I’m not a compleatist Carroll/Alice collector, seeing this in the Bud’s Art Books mailer I got today caught my eye.

(Yes, I know there’s a Carroll society. I’m about to join. And I’ll write an item RSN/PDQ, including a nod to an SFnal connection. But this is semi-news.)

I noticed in the new Bud’s Art Books (although I still think of them as Bud Plant) mini-catalog that came in today’s (snail) mail that there’s a new (not yet out) book — here’s info.

“Lewis Carroll’s Alice was first published in 1865 and has never been out of print, translated into 170 languages. But why does it have such enduring and universal appeal, for both adults and children? This book explores the global impact of Alice in art, design, and performance from the 19th century to today. Starting with the Victorian literary and social context in which this story was created, it shows the ways it’s been reimagined and reinterpreted by each new generation, from the original illustrations by John Tenniel to artwork by Peter Blake and Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney movie to Tim Burton’s 2010 interpretation.”

Bud’s listing says $50 (plus shipping), “Due July” but when I placed my order (after hesitating a modest 20 seconds), it said “This product is not available in the requested quantity. 1 of the items will be backordered.”

I included a note in my order asking whether that reflected it being not out yet, or whether they already had more orders than they anticipated copies to fulfill existing orders.

Amazon also has it listed $45.82, Sept 15. Here’s the info text from Amazon:

“Explore the phenomenon of Alice in Wonderland, which has captivated readers from Walt Disney to Annie Leibovitz for over 150 years.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a cultural phenomenon. First published in 1865, it has never been out of print and has been translated into 170 languages. But why does it have such enduring and universal appeal for both adults and children?

This book explores the global impact of Alice in Wonderland across art, design and performance from the nineteenth century to today. It shows how Alice has been re-imagined and reinterpreted by each new generation: from the original illustrations by John Tenniel to artwork by Peter Blake and Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney movie to Tim Burton’s latest interpretation.

This beautiful, playful publication also includes specially commissioned interactive illustrations by award-winning artist Kristjana S. Williams, as well as quotes from an array of cultural creators from Stephen Fry to Tim Walker, Ralph Steadman to Little Simz about the profound influence of Alice on their work.”

Whether this book is basically redundant to my modest collection of Aliceiana, I’ll find out.

(5) ALASKAN CONFIDENTIAL. In “Noir Fiction: When The Real Is Too Raw” on CrimeReads, Laird Barron, who writes horror and crime fiction, discusses the colorful people who visited his parents when he lived in Alaska and how he used these people as materials for his crime novels.

…A colorful ex-con named Tommy operated within those precincts. Tommy did time at the Goose Creek Penitentiary; warrants dogged him. He allegedly peddled coke for some bigger fish in Anchorage. Tommy drove a wired-together Datsun, or a motorcycle for the three months a man could do so without freezing his family jewels off. His favorite pastime included getting drunk at the lodge and harassing townies who alighted for weekend flings. He hated “the man.” To demonstrate his disdain, he’d snip pocket change in half with pliers….

(6) GET THE LIST. Andrew Liptak’s latest Reading List features an “Interview with Marko Kloos”.

Did you find taking that break from Frontlines beneficial? What did you take from that break that you were able to apply to the series?

It was immensely beneficial, even if I did get some flak from a few readers for daring to start another series when they were waiting for more Frontlines. But I really needed a bit of mental distance from that universe to come up with more stories worth telling. As long as it takes a few days to read what takes a few months to write, readers will want more books as quickly as possible.

(7) ART CRITICS STAND BY. Mark Lawrence (per his tradition) has followed the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off book competition by announckng the “SPFBO 6 Cover Contest”. The finalists have been picked by the bloggers. Not all the entries are in yet. When they are, the public will be invited to vote on the winner. Says Lawrence:

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are – though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

(8) GOLDEN AGE SF ARTIST. Doug Ellis offers a catalog of art from the estate of artist Hubert Rogers, items now available for sale.

When John W. Campbell, the legendary editor of Astounding Science Fiction, looked for an artist to give expression to the groundbreaking fiction he was running during what is now known as science fiction’s Golden Age, he selected veteran pulp illustrator Hubert Rogers. For nearly 15 years (with a break during the war years, when he returned to his native Canada and contributed art for the war effort), Rogers was Astounding’s primary cover artist and a prolific interior artist, contributing distinctive art imbued with a touch of class, distinguishing Astounding from its fellow pulp competitors.

Unlike many science fiction artists, Rogers received much of his original art back from the publisher. This has been held by the Rogers family for the past 80 years, with only occasional pieces being offered in the market. Rogers’ daughter, Liz, has now decided to make available to collectors nearly all of the remaining art in their collection, which is listed in this catalog. This is truly a unique opportunity to acquire vintage science fiction art from the estate of the artist.

But Rogers didn’t only create classic science fiction art. His pulp art also included covers for the hero pulps, and two of his covers for Street & Smith’s The Wizard (a companion title to Astounding) can be found here for sale as well.

  • The illustrated catalog can be found here.
  • And you can download high res images of all the art in a zip file here.
This example of Rogers’ art is a scan from the magazine cover — the original for sale is much more brightly colored.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 26, 1995 Johnny Mnemonic premiered. Based on the William Gibson short story of the same name, it was directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. It starred Keanu Reeves, Takeshi Kitan, Henry Rollins, Ice-T, Dina Meyer and Dolph Lundgren. Despite the story itself being well received and even being nominated for a Nebula Award, the response among critics to the film was overwhelmingly negative. It currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. It is available to watch here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 26, 1840 – Frederick Walker.  Painter, pen & ink illustrator, wood engraver, watercolors.  Renowned in his day.  Social Realist; see herehere.  Incorporated fantasy, see here (Spirit Painting), here.  (Died 1875) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1865 Robert Chambers. His most-remembered work was The King in Yellow short stories. Though he would turn away from these supernatural tellings, Lovecraft’s included some of them in his Supernatural Horror in Literature critical study. Critics thought his work wasn’t as great as could have been. That said, Stross, Wagner, Carter and even Blish are said to have been influenced by him. (Died 1933.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1867 – André Devambez.  Painter, illustrator, engraver, printmaker.  Contributed to Le Figaro IllustréLe RireL’Illustration.  Look at The Only Bird that Flies Above the Cloudshere, factual but fantastic; imagine seeing it in 1910.  Here is an illustration for Noëlle Roger’s cataclysmic The New Deluge (1922).  Here is an oil Leprechauns in an Undergrowth.  (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1903 Harry Steeger. He co-founded Popular Publications in 1930, one of the major publishers of pulp magazines, with former classmate Harold S. Goldsmith. They published The Spider which he created, and with Horror Stories and Terror Tales, he started the “Shudder Pulp” genre. So lacking in taste were these pulps, even a jaded public eventually rejected them. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 Peter Cushing. Best-known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. There’s a CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin used for his likeness in Rogue One. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 – Joan Jefferson Farjeon.  Scenic designer, illustrated published versions of plays she’d done, also fairy tales.  See here (a frog footman), here (a tiger lily), here.  From a 1951 stage production, here is a moment in Beauty and the Beast.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1921 Mordecai Roshwald. He’s best-known for Level 7. (Read the expanded 2004 edition as it has his SF framing narrative.) He is also the author of A Small Armageddon, and a nonfiction work, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1923 Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring  role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing “Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer” in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the GoT audiobooks. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1925 – Howard DeVore.  Began collecting, 1936.  Michigan Science Fantasy Society, 1948 (Hal Shapiro said it was the Michigan Instigators of Science Fantasy for Intellectual Thinkers Society, i.e. MISFITS).  Leading dealer in SF books, paraphernalia; known as Big-Hearted Howard, a compliment-complaint-compliment; called himself “a huckster, 1st class”.  Active in Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; Neffy Award.  Also Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n (FAPA), Spectator Am. Pr. Soc. (SAPS).  Said a Worldcon would be in Detroit over his dead body; was dragged across the stage; became Publicity head for Detention the 17th Worldcon.  With Donald Franson The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (through 3rd ed’n 1998).  Named Fan Guest of Honor for 64th Worldcon, but died before the con.  His beanie had a full-size airplane propeller.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1933 – Yôji Kondô.  Ph.D. in astrophysics. Aikido (7th degree black belt) and judo (6th degree). Senior positions at NASA, Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement; two hundred scientific papers; for more on that work, see here.  SF as Eric Kotani; six novels, most with J.M. Roberts; two shorter stories; edited Requiem tribute to Heinlein; non-fiction Interstellar Travel & Multi-Generation Space Ships with F. Bruhweiler, J. Moore, C. Sheffield; essays, mostly co-authored, in SF Age and Analog.  Heinlein Award.  Writers of the Future judge.  Obituary by OGH here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1938 – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya. Author (including plays and screenwriting), singer, painter, animator.  Russian Booker Prize, Pushkin Prize, World Fantasy Award.  Twenty short stories in our field, most recently in The Paris Review.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1946 – Mike Horvat.  Printer by trade.  Co-founder of Slanapa (the Slanderous Amateur Press Ass’n).  Donated his fanzine collection to U. Iowa, see here.  Active in apas outside our field, a decades-longer tradition; founded the American Private Press Ass’n, was its Librarian until 2005. Also amateur radio, postage stamps.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1954 – Lisbeth Zwerger.  Children’s book illustrator.  Hans Christian Andersen and Silver Brush awards; Grand Prize from German Academy for Children’s & Youth Literature.  Thirty books, most of them fantasy; see here (Swan Lake), here (the Mad Tea Party), here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM THE CIRCULAR FILE. Paul Levitz recalls the days when comics scripts were tossed in the trash after the project was over in “Artifacts”.

…Notwithstanding this, I saved a bunch of scripts from the trash for my own eduction. I’d pick out one each from the writers whose work I respected, or maybe a particularly interesting tale to study. I was limited to the scripts that passed through Joe Orlando’s editorial office–as his assistant I could take what I wanted of those, but it would have been de trop to raid Julie Schwartz’s garbage down the hall (assuming he hadn’t poured his yankee bean soup remains from lunch all over it, anyway). I learned what I could from them, then filed them away somewhere at home….

(13) THE BEER THAT MADE MFULA FAMOUS. “Under Pandemic Prohibition, South Africans Resort to Pineapples”Atlas Obscura has the story.

ON MARCH 15, THE DAY before South Africans were plunged into a lockdown which prohibited sales of alcohol, cigarettes, and takeout food, lines outside liquor stores spilled into the streets. One bottle store owner told me he did a month’s trade in a day.

Three weeks later, when President Cyril Ramaphosa made it clear the booze ban wouldn’t be lifted anytime soon, South Africans started to get desperate. Bottle store break-ins and drone-assisted drink deliveries made the news across the country. Then came the tenfold leap in pineapple sales: from 10,000 a day to nearly 100,000.

Thirsty South Africans have turned to making their own beer out of pineapples. In normal times, you can get sloshed on pineapple beer at the Big Pineapple, a 56-foot fiberglass construction in subtropical Bathurst. But these are not normal times. Luckily, pineapple beer—which is technically more of a wine or cider, as there’s no boiling involved—is easy to make, and can even be quite pleasant to drink.

(14) HELLO? ANYONE OUT THERE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Popular Mechanics takes a popsci look at a new analysis of the development intelligent life. “This Math Formula Has Determined the Odds of Aliens Existing” In a recent paper (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 May 2020), astronomer David Kipping uses Bayesian analysis to ponder the probabilities of intelligent life developing here or elsewhere. The paper’s statement of significance reads:

Does life’s early emergence mean that it would reappear quickly if we were to rerun Earth’s clock? If the timescale for intelligence evolution is very slow, then a quick start to life is actually necessary for our existence—and thus does not necessarily mean it is a generally quick process. Employing objective Bayesianism and a uniform-rate process assumption, we use just the chronology of life’s appearance in the fossil record, that of ourselves, and Earth’s habitability window to infer the true underlying rates accounting for this subtle selection effect. Our results find betting odds of >3:1 that abiogenesis is indeed a rapid process versus a slow and rare scenario, but 3:2 odds that intelligence may be rare.

Popular Mechanics sums up the paper with a single quote:

“Overall, our work supports an optimistic outlook for future searches for biosignatures,” the paper explains.

(15) ARM YOURSELVES. Daniel Dern quips, “This is the droid we’ve been looking for!” “Robotic Arm Wields UV Light Wand To Disinfect Public Spaces” in IEEE Spectrum.

Properly disinfecting public spaces can help stop the spread of coronavirus, but cleaning crews are often not properly trained how to do so. Also, if the workers don’t wear personal protective equipment, they are at risk for infection.

IEEE Fellow Satyandra K. Gupta is leading a research team at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Los Angeles that is building a robotic arm that uses a UV light sanitizer to clean contaminated areas.

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. ScreenRant reports that Big Finish has lined up two Doctors for this audio drama: “Doctor Who: David Tennant & Tom Baker Unite Against Daleks In New Story”.

David Tennant and Tom Baker are uniting to battle the Daleks in an upcoming Doctor Who audio-drama. The longest-running sci-fi TV series in the world, Doctor Who has become a cult classic. Regeneration is the secret to the show’s success. Doctor Who can reinvent itself periodically, recasting its star and allowing a new showrunner to take it in entirely new directions.

Every now and again, though, two or more incarnations of the Doctor come together in a fan-pleasing adventure in which they battle against iconic foes…. 

The plot is –

The Cathedral of Contemplation is an enigma, existing outside time. It turns through history, opening its doors across the universe to offer solace to those in need.

Occasionally, the Doctor drops in – when he’s avoiding his destiny, it’s an ideal place to get some perspective. Only, he’s already there several lives earlier, so when dimension barriers break down, his past and present collide.

And when the Daleks invade and commandeer the Cathedral, two Doctors must unite to stop them – or face extermination twice over!

(17) OTHER PEOPLE STARED, AS IF WE WERE BOTH QUITE INSANE. This is wild! The “augmented reality” bus stop window.

[Thanks to Mlex, Michael Toman, N., Andrew Porter, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Nina Shepardson, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the man who does for Scroll titles what Escher did for architecture, Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, Contrarius, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/20 Quit Airing Those Gripping Hands Through The Zoom

(1) TIME TO BOW OUT. Bruce Sterling’s blog at WIRED, which he’s been writing since 2003, is ending: “Farewell to Beyond the Beyond”.

…If there are no big events due to pandemic, and nobody’s shopping much, either, then it’s mighty hard to keep a magazine empire afloat in midair. Instead, you’ve gotta fire staffers, shut down software, hunt new business models, re-organize and remove loose ends. There is probably no looser-end in the entire WIRED domain than this weblog.

…Although I wrote tons of “original content” elsewhere, long text-form essays like this were vanishingly rare on “Beyond the Beyond.” The blog never trolled for any viral hits, or tried to please any patrons. Also, I never got paid anything for my blogging, which was probably the key to the blog’s longevity. This blog persisted with such ease, because there was so much that I didn’t have to do.

…Also, the ideal “Beyond the Beyond” reader was never any fan of mine, or even a steady reader of the blog itself. I envisioned him or her as some nameless, unlikely character who darted in orthogonally, saw a link to some odd phenomenon unheard-of to him or her, and then careened off at a new angle, having made that novelty part of his life. They didn’t have to read the byline, or admire the writer’s literary skill, or pony up any money for enlightenment or entertainment. Maybe they would discover some small yet glimmering birthday-candle to set their life alight.

(2) ANTICLICK BAIT, BUT DON’T BLAME THE PARK SERVICE. Does Gizmodo think putting the President’s name in this headline generates more clicks? If so, they’re wrong . I only looked because Daniel Dern recommended the link. “These Social Distancing Posters Are the Best Thing the Trump Administration Has Done for Parks”. Very clever stuff! Then I went to the National Park Service’s Twitter feed and found the source art.

The posters have an important mission: promote social distancing in parks during the covid-19 pandemic, reduce the spread of disease in parks, and promote virtual opportunities and experiences at parks. To be fair, the posters have been around for a few weeks now, but these gems clearly haven’t received the attention they deserve….

And that’s not the only clever thing with a genre twist that they’ve posted. Another is:

(3) RESOURCES FOR THE SUMMER SCARES PROGRAM. The Summer Scares 2020 reading list has been augmented by an array of videos:

A playlist of videos about the Summer Scares program, including resources for libraries to use to promote horror at their own libraries. Summer Scares is brought to you by the Horror Writers Association, Book Riot, Library Journal/School Library Journal, and United for Libraries.

Here’s the one from Stephen Graham Jones:

(4) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. SF Geeks go where only two men have gone before: “Thirty-six Thousand Feet”, in The New Yorker.

…Most submarines go down several hundred metres, then across; this one was designed to sink like a stone. It was the shape of a bulging briefcase, with a protruding bulb at the bottom. This was the pressure hull—a titanium sphere, five feet in diameter, which was sealed off from the rest of the submersible and housed the pilot and all his controls. Under the passenger seat was a tuna-fish sandwich, the pilot’s lunch. He gazed out of one of the viewports, into the blue. It would take nearly four hours to reach the bottom.

…The submarine touched the silty bottom, and the pilot, a fifty-three-year-old Texan named Victor Vescovo, became the first living creature with blood and bones to reach the deepest point in the Tonga Trench. He was piloting the only submersible that can bring a human to that depth: his own.

For the next hour, he explored the featureless beige sediment, and tried to find and collect a rock sample. Then the lights flickered, and an alarm went off. Vescovo checked his systems—there was a catastrophic failure in battery one. Water had seeped into the electronics, bringing about a less welcome superlative: the deepest-ever artificial explosion was taking place a few feet from his head.

If there were oxygen at that depth, there could have been a raging fire. Instead, a battery junction box melted, burning a hole through its external shell without ever showing a flame. Any instinct to panic was suppressed by the impossibility of rescue. Vescovo would have to come up on his own.

(5) MCWHORTER OBIT. Noted Burroughs collector George McWhorter (1931-2020), whose work in the sff field came after a long and fruitful career in music, died April 25. Legacy has details of both careers, as well as his family history.

…George’s most celebrated collection is the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection, which he developed as a tribute to his mother Nell Dismukes McWhorter, who taught him to read when he was just five years old. “She tried everything,” George recalls, “Dickens, Dumas… but when she got to Burroughs, I was hooked!” The largest institutional collection of Burroughs in the world, this vast and comprehensive collection of rare editions, toys, posters, games, photographs, and film has attracted scholars and fans to the University of Louisville for more than thirty years.

In 1986 George was named Curator of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Collection, a fitting title for a man who has furthered scholarship, preserved unique treasures, and brought worldwide attention to Burroughs. Looking toward the future, George has established an endowment to provide continuous support for the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection. In 2008, he designated a bequest for an endowed chair and curatorship. He also has been working with Burroughs Bibliophiles on their own gifts and bequests.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 17, 1987 The Return Of The Six Million Dollar Man And The Bionic Woman first aired. The series were loosely based off on Cyborg by Martin Caidin and The Bionic Woman by Kenneth Johnson. Michael Sloan wrote the screenplay which was based on the story he and Bruce Lansbury wrote. Lee Majors co-stars here with Lindsay Wagner. Martin Landau, Lee Major II  and Gary Lockwood guest star. It was the fourth highest rate show of genre week, and holds a 82% approval rating among the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 17, 1913 Peter B. Germano. Though neither of his SF novels was of great distinction, The Interplanetary Adventures and  The Pyramids from Space (written as Jack Berlin), his scriptwriter duties are as he did work on The Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Lost, Battle of the Planets and the revival version of The Next Step Beyond, do warrant his being noted here. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1918 – Darrell Richardson.  Baptist minister, authority on Frederick Faust (who wrote as “Max Brand”) and Edgar Burroughs, collector (30,000 books, 20,000 pulps).  Early member of Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Co-founded Memphis SF Ass’n, who named their Darrell Award for Mid-South regional work after him.  Served as a director of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation; compiled An Index of the Works of Various Fantasy Authors 1947-1948 and An Index of Various Fantasy Publications 1947-1948.  Member of First Fandom.  Big Heart, Lamont, Phoenix awards.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1919 – Ronald Cassill.  Lieutenant in U.S. Army; two exhibits of his artwork in Chicago; two stories reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Atlantic Monthly “first” prize, O. Henry short-story prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature; Fulbright, Guggenheim fellowships; Rockefeller grant; Professor of English, Brown University.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1926 – Ludvík Soucek.  Probably still the best-known Czech SF author.  Wrote also about puppet theater, photography, book printing.  A dozen books, as many collections.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1946 – F. Paul Wilson.  Sold to Analog while still in medical school, now an osteopath.  Medical thrillers, interactive scripts e.g. FTL Newsfeed.  Urban mercenary Repairman Jack first appeared in N.Y. Times best-seller The Tomb.  Three Prometheus Awards, including the first (1979), most recently Lifetime Achievement (2015).  Fifty novels in our field, sixty shorter stories, letters & reviews in JanusSF ReviewN.Y. Review of SF.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1948 – Amanda Cockrell.  Professor at Hollins University.  Historical and other fiction for adults, young adults, children, under her own name and pseudonyms.  Among us, novels about deer dancers (Daughter of the Sky, two more), goddesses (Persephone, Aphrodite, Athena), horse catchers (When the Horses Came, two more); six others; What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay named one of the best children’s books of 2011 by The Boston Globe.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 66. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work ofFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1958 – Dave Sim.  Perpetrator of Cerebus the Aardvark.  Twenty covers and interiors for Phantasy DigestDark FantasyBorealis.  Harvey Award; Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR YOUR HVP. Cora Buhlert, 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, has put her Hugo Voter Packet online as well. Here is a link where you can download it in the e-book format of your choice here.

(10) MORE LAUGHS. NPR takes notes as “Greg Daniels Moves His Comedic Spotlight To Absurdity In The Afterlife”.

For more than 30 years, Emmy Award-winning television writer, director and producer Greg Daniels has spun comedy from the threads of ordinary life, turning its frustrations and awkward moments into such hit shows as The Office, Parks And Recreation, and King of the Hill.

Now he’s reflecting on these notions again in Upload, a futuristic comedy on Amazon Prime — but this time they play out in the afterlife too. He’s also behind the upcoming Netflix satire Space Force, launching May 29, starring Steve Carell.

Greg Daniels’ humor has all the makings of the British comedies he reveres, including Fawlty Towers and the original, British version of The Office.

“There’s something wonderful about the awkwardness of it and their kind of enjoyment of a pathetic situation that always appealed to me,” Daniels says.

…The problems in Daniels’ upcoming Netflix show Space Force include a military leader who doesn’t listen to the scientists around him. His new sci-fi comedy Upload explores the inequalities — and inhumanity — that emerges as advanced, expensive, digital technologies hit the market.

“These technologies are introduced and they all seem great. And then, you know, the law of unintended consequences kicks in and they are kind of flawed or sometimes outright evil when they’re actually executed,” Daniels says.

In Upload, only the wealthy get to experience an idyllic afterlife in the expensive, leafy resort called “Lakeview.” Even the commercial for Lakeview feels eerily familiar.

(11) LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. Disney Parks posted a video flashback to Halloween 2019: “Jack Skellington reigns at Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular!”

Because we are halfway to Halloween, we are traveling back in time to last fall when Magic Kingdom Park was in the skeletal hands of the Pumpkin King. Join him in front of Cinderella Castle for a frightfully mischievous night of fireworks and creeps during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

(12) HER REAL CHILDREN. NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro interviews author Curtis Sittenfield: “Hillary Without Bill? ‘Rodham’ Imagines What Could Have Been”.

A young Hillary Rodham, madly in love with the man she met at Yale Law School, abandons her own path and heads to Arkansas. Slowly she starts to uncover Bill Clinton’s many infidelities and makes a choice.

What would have happened if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton?

“So in real life, Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary Rodham twice and she said no. Both times. And then he proposed a third time and she said yes,” says author Curtis Sittenfeld. “And in my version, she says no. The third time, too. And she goes her own way.” Sittenfeld’s new book Rodham follows Hillary as she goes on to become a law professor, and then a politician.

Interview Highlights

On wanting to write speculative fiction about someone who’s been written about so much already

Well, doesn’t everyone? Isn’t it a totally natural impulse? So actually, it’s funny because I agree with you that so much has been written about Hillary. And it was sort of in reaction to that that I think I wrote this book. So in the lead-up to the 2016 election, I was invited to write essays about Hillary, and I would decline because I felt like every possible thing there was to say about Hillary had been said. She had been analyzed from every angle.

And then an editor at Esquire magazine invited me to write a short story from Hillary’s perspective. And I accepted, and writing that story was this kind of strange exercise where I realized that the question was not, what do the American people think of Hillary Clinton, but what does Hillary Clinton think of the American people? And it turned out that that I had 400 pages worth of thoughts to say on that. So it was actually trying to sort of flip the narrative, and instead of making her the one who’s scrutinized, like giving her a voice — which, of course, is a totally fictionalized voice, like she did not write this book. I wrote this book.

(13) HE’S A CRITIC. [Item by Daniel Dern.] And I’ll say it in case nobody else will (although I’m sure they will), “This robot really sucks.” “An R2-D2 Robot Vacuum Is Exactly the Chore Droid I’m Looking For”. Be sure to watch the video!

(14) THEY’RE CRITICS TOO. “Coronavirus: Author Neil Gaiman’s 11,000-mile lockdown trip to Scottish isle” – BBC says a local politician is outraged.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who is the MP for the island, told the Sunday Times the author’s journey was unacceptable.

He said: “What is it about people, when they know we are in the middle of lockdown that they think they can come here from the other side of the planet, in turn endangering local people from exposure to this infection that they could have picked up at any step of the way?”

Mr Gaiman – whose main family home is in Woodstock in the USA – has owned the house on Skye for more than 10 years.

(15) THE MASTER SPACE. The Iron Sky “Dictator’s Cut” is online.

(16) BACK TO THE FUTURE REUNION. Josh Gad’s stay-at-home show Reunited Apart summons Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson and even Huey Lewis to reminisce about the 1985 movie.

Great Scott! Things get heavy during Episode Two of “Reunited Apart” as Josh is joined by the creative geniuses behind the Back to the Future trilogy.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Something sure to please that little bit of pyromania in everyone.

Match Chain Reaction – Space Rocket built with Matches TAKES OFF 1 Million matches is a lot of matches, which means lighting them all together is a lot of fire. The way it burns is crazy to watch. It took me a lot of hard work and time to make this rocket.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Dennis Howard, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, IanP, JeffWarner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day the cryptic Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes ti File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 5/11/20 My Chief Pixel Has Told Me To Scroll And Fifth This File

(1) BEST TRANSLATED BOOK AWARDS FICTION FINALISTS. One work of genre interest survived the cut to make the finals for the 2020 Best Translated Book Awards, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Japan, Pantheon). The complete shortlist is at the link.

The award, founded by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, comes with $10,000 in prizes from the Amazon Literary Partnership. The prize will be split evenly between the winning authors and translators. The winners will be announced on May 27.

(2) SFWA REFERENDUM. An overwhelming majority of SFWA members favor including authorship of sff/h graphic novels and comics as qualifications for membership according to the ”2020 Election Question Results” posted today on the SFWA Blog.

During the recent SFWA elections… the voting members of the organization also voted on two questions.

Question: Should SFWA allow writing of graphic novels and comics in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and related genres to be used as qualification for membership?

Yes      95.18%

No       4.82%

Question: As noted in the January 31st email to members, “active members” has a specific meaning, thus leading to our need to change our membership class name for Active members. Which name would you prefer to be called?

Full Member      47.19%
General Member   11.99%
Regular Member   6.89%
Voting Member     33.93%

In the coming weeks, the board will be discussing the implementation of the graphic novel question and will make an announcement when the rules for admittance under the new rules are open.

(3) BSFA AWARDS STREAMING SCHEDULE. BSFA, the British Science Fiction Association, invites fans to attend their award ceremony for works published in 2019 on YouTube here on Sunday May 17. They will be announcing the winners of Best Novel, Best Shorter Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Artwork from 7 p.m. BST.

(4) THE SIMPLE BARE NECESSITIES. Tor.com’s Emmett Asher-Perrin really fired up the commenters with “Thought Exercise: Do Jedi Sleep Naked?” I’m envious!

Sometimes you’re watching a lot of Clone Wars, and sometimes your brain points out little innocuous things to you… like the fact that Jedi never seem to have luggage.

So, during the Clone Wars, Jedi are dispatched across the galaxy constantly to handle various galactic disputes, battles, and diplomatic messes. Often, they take Jedi starfighters and land them on big Republic cruisers, giving them flexibility to come and go as they need to. When they sleep, it’s typically on planets during missions, or it’s in quarters on the bigger ships. Sometimes there’s a chance to get back to the Jedi Temple and sleep in quarters there, but generally, they’re on the go all the time.

Yet you’ll never find them slinging a weekender over their shoulder, or dragging a little rolly carry-on bag behind them….

(5) FREAKAZOIDS PLEASE REPORT TO THE DANCE FLOOR. Production Club’s “Micrashell” is “A Suit That Allows You To Safely Socialize in Times of a Pandemic”.

Micrashell was born as a socially responsible solution to safely allow people to interact in close proximity. Specifically designed to satisfy the needs of nightlife, live events and entertainment industries, Micrashell is a virus-shielded, easy to control, fun to wear, disinfectable, fast to deploy personal protective equipment (PPE) that allows socializing without distancing….

Here’s a snip from the long list of advantages:

BASIC NEEDS & SUIT HANDLING
• “Top only” suit design allows the user to wear their normal clothes, use the toilet and engage in intercourse without being exposed to respiratory risks
• Hand latch system to facilitate dressing and undressing the suit

(6) WILL THE U.S. MAIL BE STAMPED OUT? The New York Times finds “A Fight Over the Future of the Mail Breaks Down Along Familiar Lines”.

…Postal leaders and their allies have made unusually blunt appeals for support in recent weeks, running advertisements on President Trump’s favorite Fox News programs and laying out an urgent account of how the pandemic has had a “devastating effect” on the U.S. mail service. Without a financial rescue from Congress, they have warned, an agency that normally runs without taxpayer funds could run out of cash as soon as late September, raising the specter of bankruptcy and an interruption in regular delivery for millions of Americans.

But after nearly reaching a bipartisan deal for a multibillion dollar bailout in the last coronavirus rescue package in late March, Republicans and Democrats have sharply diverged over whether to provide a lifeline. Now, the fight over the future of the Postal Service has spilled onto the campaign trail, increasingly freighted by deeply held disagreements about labor rights, the role of government versus private enterprise in providing basic services, and voting access.

(7) NIGHT AFTER NIGHT. “Travelling Text”: The London Review of Books’ Marina Warner discurses on The Arabian Nights and a book of essays about them.

Like a dance craze or a charismatic cult, The Arabian Nights seized readers’ imaginations as soon as translations first appeared – in French between 1704 and 1717, and in English from 1708. Oriental fever swept through salons and coffee-houses, the offices of broadsheet publishers and theatrical impresarios; the book fired a train of imitations, spoofs, turqueries, Oriental tales, extravaganzas. It changed tastes in dress and furniture – the sofa, the brocade dressing-gown – and even enhanced the taste of coffee. In fact its diaspora almost mimics the triumphant progress of coffee, as it metamorphosed from the thimbles of thick dark syrup drunk in Damascus and Istanbul and Cairo to today’s skinny latte, macchiato et al. Antoine Galland, the French savant and explorer who discovered and translated the earliest manuscript in Syria in the late 17th century, also published a translation of an Arabic treatise in praise of coffee, one of the first if not the first of its kind. It is his bowdlerised version of the stories that dominated their diaspora, from the ‘Arabian Nights’ Entertainments’, serialised in 445 instalments over three years in the London News, to the fantasies of the Ballets Russes, to the 1924 Thief of Baghdad, to Disney’s Aladdin and Sinbad.

In the countries of the book’s origin, the stories were considered popular trash, and excluded from the canon. In Europe, a similar sense that they had negligible status as literature came about because so many of their early enthusiasts were women. The Earl of Shaftesbury, writing in 1711, three years after the book’s first appearance in English, denounced the Desdemona tendency, claiming that the tales ‘excite’ in women ‘a passion for a mysterious Race of black Enchanters: such as of old were said to creep into Houses, and lead captive silly Women’. It’s significant, in the history of East-West relations, that Shaftesbury could only understand the alien bogeys in terms of beliefs rather closer to home than Baghdad or Cairo.

Another reason the work wasn’t taken seriously was that it eluded concepts of authorship: the stories were anonymous and composed at different periods in different places. The architecture of the frame story – Scheherazade telling stories to the sultan every night till dawn to save her life – insisted on the oral, collective, immemorial character of the tales, presenting them as a compendium of collective wisdom, or at least as literature with a thousand and one owners and users. Madeleine Dobie, in the opening essay of ‘The Arabian Nights’ in Historical Context, a collection edited by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum, shows how Galland’s work set the trend. A brilliant linguist, antiquarian and Orientalist, Galland began the process of treating the book as something that could be altered and made to express fantasy. The most popular tales of all, the ones that have become synonymous with The Arabian Nights and have been retold in children’s books and films (‘Aladdin’, ‘Ali Baba’, ‘The Ebony Horse’, ‘Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Peri Banou’), are probably Galland’s invention, concocted of pomegranates and ebony, damask and jasmine, in tribute to the style of the original stories.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 11, 1899 — E.  B. White. He’s a co-author with William Strunk Jr. of The Elements of Style. In addition, he wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1904 – Salvador Dalí.  Two Basket of Bread paintings twenty years apart – The Persistence of Memory between them – show he could be realistic if he felt like it.  Having said “The difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad,” he told a group of Surrealists “The difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.”  He put an unfolded tesseract in Crucifixion; created in 1950 a Costume for 2045 with Christian Dior; drew, etched, sculpted; illustrated The Divine Comedy and The Arabian Nights.  Memoir, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.  (Died 1989) [JH
  • Born May 11, 1916 — Maurice Nahum. ISFDB credits him with being editor in the Fifties of the Futuristic Science StoriesOut of This World MagazineSupernatural Stories and several other publications. Langford at the usual source says of them that ‘All were juvenile, undated and of poor quality.’ (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1918  – Sheila Burnford.  In The Incredible Journey a Bull Terrier, a Siamese cat, and a Labrador Retriever travel 300 miles (480 km) through the Canadian wilderness to find their humans; a Disney film was made.  Later Burnford spent two summers on Baffin Island, traveling by komatik (a dog sled) and seeing the narwhals migrate. “Poor Albert Floated When He Died” was in Women of the Weird with a Gorey cover.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1918 – Richard Feynman.  He had a gift for looking from the abstract to the concrete: hence Feynman diagrams; plunging a piece of O-ring material into ice water at a hearing on the Challenger disaster; winning a Nobel Prize and teaching undergraduates. Kept a notebook Things I Don’t Know About.  A curved-space lecture handout had a bug on a sphere: “the bug and any rulers he uses are all made of the same material which expands when it is heated.” Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman reviewed by Alma Jo Williams in Science Fiction Review.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1920 — Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into  SpaceTwilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1927 – Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  Three fantasies won the Newbery Honor; a score of books for us, four dozen in all.  Below the Root is the first of her Green Sky trilogy; after the third, she worked closely with a programmer and a graphic artist on a Below the Root computer game.  Cover for Song of the Gargoyle by Jody Lee, who was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor when I was Fan GoH at Lunacon XLIV.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1936 — Gordon  Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1952 — Frances Fisher, 67. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on MediumX-Files, Outer LimitsResurrectionThe Expanse and has some role in the forthcoming Watchmen series. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range finds a UFO that may be unidentified but does not look unfamiliar.

(10) ANIMAL MAGNETISM. “Early drawings and letters by Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter dating back to the 1890s sell for £213,000 at auction” – the Daily Mail has the story.

…Peter Costanzo, specialist at Doyle Auctions, said: ‘Part of the charm of this early period is that Potter apparently did not intend to publish books for children.

‘She simply sought a simple and affectionate way to communicate with them, and in combining an early mastery of the drawing of animals and a playful love of verse, Potter created a style all her own.

‘This was truly an insightful, important and whimsical group, one of the finest collections of early Beatrix Potter artwork and it represented a rare opportunity for collectors and institutions alike.’

…Her most famous book, The Tale of Petter Rabbit (1901), has been translated into 36 languages and sold 45 million copies.

She died aged 77 in 1943.

(11) STEPPING UP. A slightly creepy use for tech’s best friend: “Robot dog enforces social distancing in Singapore park”.

A robot dog is patrolling one of Singapore’s parks as part of coronavirus-related trial.

The machine – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – is fitted with a camera to monitor how busy Bishan-Ang Moh Kio Park becomes.

It also carries a loudspeaker to broadcast social-distancing messages.

(12) OWN A PIECE OF SPACE! “Branson to sell Galactic stake to prop up Virgin”

Sir Richard Branson is selling a stake in Virgin Galactic to raise $500m to prop up his other businesses including Virgin Atlantic.

The billionaire has been criticised for seeking financial help from the taxpayer for the airline.

Sir Richard will now sell a share of his space tourism business.

Virgin Group said it will use the proceeds to support its “leisure, holiday and travel businesses” hit by “the unprecedented impact” of Covid-19.

(13) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. BBC reports “Longer overlap for modern humans and Neanderthals”.

Modern humans began to edge out the Neanderthals in Europe earlier than previously thought, a new study shows.

Tests on remains from a cave in northern Bulgaria suggest Homo sapiens was there as early as 46,000 years ago.

This is up to 2,000 years older than evidence from Italy and the UK.

Around this time, Europe was populated by sparse groups of Neanderthals – a distinct type of human that vanished shortly after modern humans appeared on the scene.

There’s considerable debate about the length of time that modern humans overlapped with Neanderthals in Europe and other parts of Eurasia.

This has implications for the nature of contact between the two groups – and perhaps clues to why Neanderthals went extinct.

(14) KEEPS ON TICKING. Quanta Magazine’s “Arrows of Time” infographic tracks the development of human ideas about the concept of time.

The human mind has long grappled with the elusive nature of time: what it is, how to record it, how it regulates life, and whether it exists as a fundamental building block of the universe. This timeline traces our evolving understanding of time through a history of observations in CULTURE, PHYSICS, TIMEKEEPING and BIOLOGY.

It begins with —

c. 50,000 BCE

Australia’s first inhabitants, the ancestors of today’s aboriginal peoples, are believed to have embraced a timeless view of nature, in which the present and past are intimately connected. The spirits of long-dead ancestors, for example, were believed to inhabit the living. These spirits reflected a long-ago golden age sometimes known as the Dreamtime.

(15) GASSY TOOTS IN SPACE. Yahoo!’s headline is more aspirational than literal right now, but it might come true soon: “Look Up! A Dazzling Comet Is Now Visible to the Naked Eye to Viewers Across the World”.

Officially named C/2020 F8 (SWAN), the comet, which is technically an “outgassing interplanetary iceberg,” will be closest to Earth on May 13, and nearest to the sun May 27, according to NASA. (The warmth of the sun causes comets to vaporize.) Right now, it’s only visible to individuals in the Southern hemisphere, including those in Australia, Chile, and New Zealand, but if it continues to brighten along its journey, those of us in the Northern hemisphere could see it soon. NASA reports that people might be able to see it with the naked eye in June.  Space.com notes the best times to see it will be in the West-Northwest sky after sunset, and in the East-Northeast sky before sunrise.

However, just because it’s visible now, doesn’t mean it will stay that way…. 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 4/25/20 Though It Was Scrolled A Long, Long Time Ago, Your Pixel Should Know

(1) RIGHTS FIGHT. Publishers Weekly reports “Federal Appeals Court Declares Literacy a Constitutional Right”.

In a potential landmark ruling, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held this week that access to a basic minimum education “that can plausibly impart literacy” is a fundamental, Constitutionally protected right.

In a 2-1 ruling released on April 23, the court held that basic literacy is “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” and central to “the basic exercise of other fundamental rights,” including political participation.

“The recognition of a fundamental right is no small matter,” the court conceded in its written opinion. “But just as this Court should not supplant the state’s policy judgments with its own, neither can we shrink from our obligation to recognize a right when it is foundational to our system of self-governance. Access to literacy is such a right. Its ubiquitous presence and evolution through our history has led the American people universally to expect it. And education—at least in the minimum form discussed here—is essential to nearly every interaction between a citizen and her government.”

The Appeals court ruling reverses and remands a 2016 case in which lawyers claim that the State of Michigan failed to provide a suitable education to a plaintiff group of Detroit Public School students, after invoking the state’s Emergency Management Powers to take over control of the plaintiff’s schools. At trial, the plaintiffs argued that they were forced to sit in classrooms that were “functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy,” marked by “unqualified instructors,” and “a dearth of textbooks and other school supplies.” The result: a number of students with “zero or near-zero” proficiency levels on state-administered tests….

(2) OR IS THAT FIENDLY? First Fandom Experience revisits “The Friendly Magazine” of 1930s Los Angeles fandom.

The fanzine Sweetness and Light was launched in Spring 1939 by the “Moonrakers,” clique of members of the Los Angeles Science Fiction League. The Editorial Board consisted of Russ Hodgkins, Fred Shroyer, Henry Kuttner, Jim Mooney and Art Barnes. The subtitle proclaimed the publication to be “The Friendly Magazine.” Like all of its contents over its five-issue run, the masthead was ironic.

Includes an array of screencaps from the zine, like this one –

(3) FREE AUDIO. Wil Wheaton has recorded another story — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Satellite of Fear by Fred A Kummer Jr.”

Since I was going to read, anyway, I decided to grab something at random off the RFB Presents list, and record it.

I chose Satellite of Fear, by Fred A Kummer, Jr.

Inside the crippled Comet, a hard-bitten crew watched the life-giving oxygen run low. Outside, on Ceres’ fabled Darkside, stalked death in awful, spectral form.

Listen on Soundcloud.

(4) SIX PACK. In “6 Books with Andi C Buchanan” a New Zealand author shares picks with Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about? 

Oh no, this whole interview is going to have to be about choosing just one, isn’t it? I am very much looking forward to R.B. Lemberg’s The Four Profound Weaves. I’ve been following Lemberg’s shorter work for a number of years; it’s beautiful and warm and comforting, and hopeful without falling into the trap of skirting tougher issues or minimising them. The Birdverse verse (of which The Four Profound Weaves is a part) is filled with people you don’t find as often as one might like in fiction, and yet resonate so strongly for me. I’m really excited about seeing what Lemberg does at novella length.

(5) THE WORM RETURNS. Print Magazine shares “The Inside Story of NASA’s ‘Worm’ Logo”.

Earlier this month, the design world was delighted when NASA unexpectedly revealed it was bringing back its iconic “worm” logo, which Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn created in 1974….

…By virtue of a connection, Danne and Blackburn eventually got an invite to bid on the NASA redesign, which they did on Oct. 1, 1974. They presented one concept—the worm—which they brought to life in a deck showing applications on everything from newsletters to vans to buses and, of course, the space shuttle. 

And, of course, their firm of five (which included their receptionist) won. “It was against all the odds,” Danne recalled, noting they presented such a minimalistic design because the agency—which didn’t have any designers on staff—was producing a lot of “garbage.” 

“We saw all this debris and it drove us toward a simpler solution.”

Danne paired Helvetica with the worm because the two blended so well together. (He was also quick to note that he has hardly used it since.)

Owing to Pantone’s rules for its numerical designations back in the day, Pantone 179 became “NASA Red,” and the rest is branding history. 

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

You have to know French counting 1,2,3,4 …………un, deux, trois, quatre, ………..Quarantine   

Year 1403:  Despite the fact that nothing was known about how disease came to be (except for the usual theories of punishment by God or infestation by demons), people tended to avoid those who were sick with some particular fatal or loathsome disease. When the Black Death struck, people instinctively fled from those afflicted, often leaving the dying to die unburied. In 1403, the city of Venice, always rationally ruled, decided that recurrences of the Black Death could best be averted by not allowing strangers to enter the city until a certain waiting period had passed. If by then they had not developed the disease and died, they could be considered not to have it and would be allowed to enter. 

The waiting period was eventually standardized at forty days (perhaps because forty-day periods play an important role in the Bible). For that reason, the waiting period was called quarantine, from the French word for “forty”. In a society that knew no other way of fighting disease, quarantine was better than nothing. It was the first measure of public hygiene deliberately taken to fight disease.  

++ Isaac Asimov. From Chronology of Science & Discovery (1989)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 25, 1941 — In London, The Devil Bat premiered. It was directed by Jean Yarborough. The screenplay was by John Thomas Neville from a story by George Bricker who was responsible for House of Dracula and She Wolf of London. The film starred Bela Lugosi along with Suzanne Kaaren, Guy Usher, Yolande Mallott, Dave O’Brien and Donald Kerr. The film was re-released in 1945 on a double bill with Man Made Monster. It was consider one of the best films that Lugosi ever made, though it only has a 58% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It’s in the public domain as it has been since it was released, so you can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 25, 1873 Walter de la Mare. His supernatural horror was a favorite of H. P. Lovecraft. Ramsey Campbell and Joan Aiken would also cite him as an influence on their writing. Though he did write a number of novels, I’ll hold that the short story of which he released at fifteen collections was his his true strength. Out of the Deep and Other Supernatural Tales is an excellent introduction to him as a writer. It’s available at the usual digital suspects.  (Died 1956.)
  • Born April 25, 1897 Fletcher Pratt. He’s best remembered for his fiction written with L. Sprague de Camp, to wit Land of Unreason, The Carnelian Cube and The Complete Compleat Enchanter. I’m also fond of The Well of the Unicorn and Double Jeopardy. (Died 1956.)
  • Born April 25, 1915 Mort Weisinger. Comic book editor best known for editing  Superman during in the Silver Age of comic books. He also served as story editor for the Adventures of Superman series,  Before that he was one of the earliest active sf fans, working on fanzines like The Planet (1931) and The Time Traveller (1932) and attending the New York area fan club “The Scienceers.” (Died 1978.)
  • Born April 25, 1920 John Mantley. He wrote but one SF novel, The 27th Day,  but it rated a detailed review in The Magazine of F&SF which you can read here. (He wrote the screenplay for the film version of his novel.) He also produced a number of episodes of The Wild Wild WestBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and MacGyver. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 25, 1929 Robert A. Collins. Edited a number of quite interesting publications including the Fantasy Newsletter in the early Eighties, the IAFA Newsletter in the late Eighties and the early Nineties along with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual with Rob Latham at the latter time. He also wrote Thomas Burnett Swann: A Brief Critical Biography & Annotated Bibliography. (Died 2009.)
  • Born April 25, 1957 Deborah Chester, 63. Jim Butcher in a Tor.com interview says she’s his primary mentor. She’s authored nearly forty genre novels and I’ve read her pulpish Operation StarHawks series (written as Sean Dalton) which is good popcorn reading. 
  • Born April 25, 1961 Gillian Polack, 59. Australian writer and editor. She created the Ceres Universe, a fascinating story setting. And she’s a great short story writer as Datlow demonstrated when she selected “Happy Faces for Happy Families” for her recommended reading section in the ‘04 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. 
  • Born April 25, 1981 Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 39. Canadian of Mexican descent. She’s the publisher of Innmouths Free Press, an imprint devoted to weird fiction. Not surprisingly, she co-edited with Paula R. Stiles for the press, the  Historical Lovecraft and Future Lovecraft anthologies. She won a World Fantasy Award for the She Walks in Shadows anthology, also  on Innsmouth Free Press. She’s a finalist for the Nebula Award 2019 in the Best Novel category for her Gods of Jade and Shadow novel. And finally with Lavie Tidhar, she edits the Jewish Mexican Literary Review. Not genre, but sort of genre adjacent. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) ORIGINAL EC COMIC ART. The Bristol Board calls this a forgotten masterpiece

Complete original art for “In the Beginning…” by Joe Orlando (art) and Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines (story) from Weird Fantasy #17, published by EC Comics, January 1953.

(11) THE DROID WILL SEE YOU NOW. The machine that danced over obstacles now protects against infection: “Meet ‘Spot:’ The Robot That Could Help Doctors Remotely Treat COVID-19 Patients” at NPR.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston has been testing a new piece of hardware to help them treat coronavirus cases — a robot called Spot.

Last week, the hospital began using the robot in interviewing patients suspected of having less-serious cases of COVID-19. It’s only been deployed a handful of times so far, but according to Peter Chai, an emergency medical physician at Brigham and Women’s, the hope is that using Spot could limit staff exposure to COVID-19.

“It also eliminates PPE,” said Chai in an interview. “Spot doesn’t need to wear a mask or gown.”

…”One of the hospitals that we spoke to shared that, within a week, a sixth of their staff had contracted COVID-19 and that they were looking into using robots to take more of their staff out of range of the novel virus,” Boston Dynamics said in a statement.

Boston Dynamics than consulted with MIT and Brigham and Women’s, outfitting Spot with an iPad and radio so a medical technician could interface with patients in the triage tent the hospital — and others — use for potential COVID-19 patients.

(12) SPACE SKEPTIC. In “NASA Astronaut Breaks Down Space Scenes From Film and TV” on YouTube, retired astronaut Nicole Stott discusses space scenes in sf and space movies, from the silly (the scene in Spaceballs declaring the ship would travel at “ludicrous speed” to realistic films such as Gravity and First Man.

(13) CAP-BUT-NO-PIE. A SYFY Wire writer regards these to be “The 10 Most Stylish Hats In Genre Movies And TV”.

…Even though hats are no longer as ubiquitous as they once were, there will always be a place for millinery in both film and fashion. So whether your own personal style is hat-centric or not, it is hard to imagine the following characters without their signature accessory. For inspiration or to simply relive these memorable moments, check out some genre hat highlights below….

One of the selections is — 

The Sorting Hat – Harry Potter (2001-2011)

There are a variety of hats in Harry Potter including the traditional styling to Dumbledore’s flat top version. However, there is one hat that has a huge impact on every single Hogwarts student. The only sentient hat on the list has the task of sorting the Hogwarts pupils into one of four houses. It is a rather hefty task for a rather unassuming looking piece of headgear, but the Sorting Hat comes alive in its wear and tears. It might not be the prettiest of garments, but it is the only hat on this list that can sing.

(14) CREEP FACTOR THREE, MR. SULU. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This story isn’t exactly genre, but it does have the feel of a horror show. In a recent museum #CuratorBattle, the chosen field of battle was #CreepiestObject. The taxidermied monkey/fish hybrid “mermaids” were but one type of item that strayed very near the genre boundary.

The CNN story “Museums reveal their creepiest objects in Twitter battle” has several excellent entries, but a quick Twitter search for #CreepiestObject will turn up many more.

Fish-tailed monkey “mermaids.” A snuff box for storing pubic hair. Enough creepy dolls to fill a haunted schoolhouse.

With their doors closed due to the pandemic, museums in the UK and beyond have been taking to Twitter to showcase the most terrifying items in their collections, and it might be enough to make you glad to be safe at home.

I’ve included herein a link for a tableau of unfortunate tabbies having tea. The article references it, but I felt it appropriate to highlight these SJWCs.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “How Walt Disney Cartoons Are Made” on YouTube is a short film made by RKO (DIsney’s distributor at the time) explaining how Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs was created. From 1939, but it’s news to me!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Kendall, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/20 Send Me The Pixel That You Scroll On

(1) THE TEN DOCTORS. The BBC’s Big Night In fundraising telethon broadcast April 23 included “The Doctors’ inspiring message to all frontline workers” delivered by regiment of actors who have played Doctor Who — Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, and Jo Martin.

Doctors, past and present, unite together to send a powerful message to all frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus. Comic Relief and Children in Need join forces for the first time to deliver a very special night of television during these unprecedented times.The Big Night In brings the nation an evening of unforgettable entertainment in a way we’ve never seen before. More importantly, it will also raise money for and pay tribute to those on the front line fighting Covid-19 and all the unsung heroes going that extra mile to support their communities.

An excerpt from the YouTube transcript:

…We have all come together together together together together together together together for one important reason to praise salute and give the heartfelt thanks to real-life special doctors nurses and everyone everyone working on the phone lines in our NHS and care homes and hospices what you all do and have done for all of us is amazing it’s crucial phenomenal…

(2) HOLLAND CON DELAYED. Kees Van Toorn’s Reunicon 2020, a 30th anniversary celebration of the Worldcon in The Hague, has been postponed until August 2021.

Due to official regulations enforced by many countries worldwide concerning the covid-19 virus, all public events and travelling restrictions have been scrapped or postponed. That includes REUNICON 2020, alas. However, we have rescheduled the convention in August 20-22 in 2021. We are confident we will be able to host REUNICON next year, making it a good place to come to and share memories of CONFICTION 1990 as well as to remember all those we have lost in the past years and the grim period we now face. In the meantime, be well, stay healthy and take care of each other. And stay tuned for more information!

(3) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Steven Saus found a problem: “Minecraft Bug: Despawning Named Zombie Villagers”.

We discovered what seems to be a bug in Minecraft. Named mobs are not supposed to despawn when the chunk unloads, but named villagers that are turned into (named) zombie villagers end up despawning too.

.. My named villager “Bait” was turned into a named zombie villager all right, but he also immediately despawned when the chunk unloaded.

If you want to spend 90 seconds you can watch it happen – yes, I admit I did…

(4) ACHIEVEMENTS TO UNLOCK. At the SFWA Blog, Cat Rambo begins “Effective Goal Setting for Writers” with this overview:

Something I work on with my coaching clients is goal setting, which is made up of several parts:

  • figuring out where they want to be in six months to a year
  • figuring out what the milestones of that goal are and mapping them against the schedule
  • figuring out the monthly goals they need to hit in order to achieve that schedule
  • figuring out the weekly goals necessary to achieve those monthly goals

(5) US IN FLUX. The third story for Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “When We Call a Place Home,” by Chinelo Onwualu.

On Monday, April 27 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Chinelo in conversation with Robert Evans, a conflict journalist and host of the podcasts Behind the Bastards and The Women’s War about the story “When We Call a Place Home” and the real-world community in Northern Syria that inspired the tale.

(6) REASONS REVISITED. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] In a free reprint from 2001, The London Review of Books’ Jenny Turner discusses “Reasons for liking Tolkien” — long, meaty, and balanced.

A writer, born around 1890, is famous for three novels. The first is short, elegant, an instant classic. The second, the masterpiece, has the same characters in it, is much longer and more complicated, and increasingly interested in myth and language games. The third is enormous, mad, unreadable. One answer is Joyce, of course. Another – The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1955), The Silmarillion (1977) – is J.R.R. Tolkien.

A writer, born around 1890, raged against ‘mass-production robot factories and the roar of self-obstructive mechanical traffic’ and ‘the rawness and ugliness of modern European life’. Instead he loved the trees and hedgerows of the English Midlands he had known as a boy, and the tales of ‘little, ultimate creatures’ he came across in the legends of the North. Clue: it wasn’t D.H. Lawrence.

A writer, born around 1890, worked bits of ancient writings into his own massive masterwork, magnificently misprising them as he went. Clue: it wasn’t Pound.

…A writer, born around 1890, declared himself a monarchist and a Catholic; and no, it wasn’t Eliot. In form, in content, in everything about it, The Lord of the Rings is the most anti-Modernist of novels. It is really very funny to think about how similar it is in so many ways to the works of the great Modernists.

(7) WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO? From The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood’s lockdown diary: life as an eccentric self-isolationist”.

As the first world war dragged on, volunteer women’s groups of all kinds formed in aid of the troops in the trenches: bandage rolling, preserved foods box packing, knitting. My grandmother joined a knitting group in rural Nova Scotia. You started on washcloths, progressed to scarves; then, if you were sufficiently adroit, you moved on to balaclavas and socks, and ultimately – the pinnacle! – to gloves. My grandmother was a terrible knitter. She never got beyond washcloths.

I’ve often wondered about these knitting groups. What were they for, really? Were they providing much-needed knitted items, or were they boosting morale by giving a bunch of otherwise very anxious civilians, whose sons and husbands were in jeopardy, something to do with their hands while waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting? I can see the socks and gloves making it to the frontlines, but the washcloths? Photographs of muddy, cramped, stinky trench life don’t show much washing going on. And my grandmother’s wonky, hole-filled washcloths in particular – were they sent to a secret depot where they were unraveled, and their wool reclaimed for something more functional?

So, in the spirit of my grandmother’s washcloths – not ultimately useful, perhaps, but let’s hope they focused the mind and gave a sense of accomplishment – I present some of my more bizarre self-isolation activities. You can do some of them at home. Though perhaps you won’t wish to.

…Another activity I’ve been doing lately is squirrel foiling. Hear a gnawing sound in the ceiling? These are your choices, in this part of the world: raccoons, possums, rats, squirrels, Google Earth. Probably squirrels, I thought, and so it proved to be. At first I foiled them by playing hot jazz and acid rock right under their gnawing station, but they got used to the wailing and screaming, so I climbed up a stepladder, placed a large steel bowl against the ceiling, and whacked it with a big metal serving spoon. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been doing that alone at night – the Younger Generation will scold when they read this – because people my age fall off ladders and break their necks, especially when not holding on because you need two hands for steel bowl banging. I won’t do it again, promise. (Until next time.)…

(8) MANDALORIAN MAKERS. Here’s a two-minute teaser for the next season of The Mandalorian, with appearances by Jon Favreau (creator/writer/executive producer), Dave Filoni (writer/director/executive producer), Deborah Chow (director), Bryce Dallas Howard (director), Taika Waititi (director/IG-11), Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin), Gina Carano (Cara Dune), and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga). Starts starts streaming May the 4th, on Disney+.

(9) MILLER OBIT. Ryder W. Miller (1965-2020)  passed away March 15 after a six-month fight with pancreatic cancer. A critic, poet, writer, and journalist, he was a regular contributor to The Mythic Circle, Beyond Bree, Mythprint, EGJ, and Rain Taxi, and also appeared in Mythlore. He published stories at The Lost Souls website. He is the author of Tales of Suspense and Horror, co-author of San Francisco: A Natural History, and editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (ibooks, 2005).

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite distance, and we can travel thanks to imagination.

In concert, Wikipedia has selected as its word of the day unputdownable:

Of a person, etc.: difficult or impossible to put down (in various senses). (specifically) Of a book or other written work: so captivating or engrossing that one cannot bear to stop reading it.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada.

Doctor Who is a sci-fi series that first aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1963. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a time-travelling alien, who travels through time and space in a time machine and spacecraft called Time and Relative Dimension in Space or TARDIS. The TARDIS looks like a London police box from the 1960s.

Called The Impossible Astronaut, the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 23, 1974 Planet Earth premiered. Created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, it was — not surprisingly – also based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a 45% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 85. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field.
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 74. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role was Kate Durning on Elementary.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 65. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction, 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 64. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 58. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 47. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a  Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as is her newest novel Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) STILL IN THE DUGOUT. Last year Chris Barkley sent retiring Cincinnati Reds baseball broadcaster Marty Brennaman a copy of his “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask” column full of advice about how to improve Major League Baseball, and he was ecstatic to finally receive an answer.

(15) EARTH DAY. Brain Pickings will celebrate Earth Day on April 25 with its The Universe in Verse event, a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry, streaming on Vimeo.

“I don’t think it would have been conceivable to me when I was seventeen that science would ever need defending, let alone by a poet,” the poet Jane Hirshfield says in her beautiful and poignant meditation on her memory of the first Earth Day in 1970, prefacing her reading at the 2020 Universe in Verse, celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. (Tune into the global broadcast at 4:30PM EST on Saturday, April 25, to hear Hirshfield and a constellation of other radiant minds.

…Expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry, Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and other titans of poetic perspective, performed by a largehearted cast of scientists and artists, astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna LevinKip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne CashPatti SmithAmanda PalmerZoë KeatingMorley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane HirshfieldRoss GayMarie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca SolnitElizabeth GilbertMasha GessenRoxane GayRobert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie MillmanDustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestini with the Young People’s Chorus. As always, there are some thrilling surprises in wait.

(16) ANATOMY OF A BLACK HOLE. “In a photo of a black hole, a possible key to mysteries” from the Harvard Gazette.

So little is known about them and the image hints at a path to a higher-resolution image and more and better data

Billions of people worldwide marveled at the first image ever captured of a black hole. The photo of the glowing, blurry doughnut, taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team, showed the massive dark region, a monster the size of our solar system, that, like its peers, gobbles up everything — even light — that ventures too close.

“I definitely got shivers down my spine,” said Alexander Lupsasca, a junior fellow in Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, remembering the moment he saw the photo for the first time. It was thrilling because so very little is known about black holes. And now, Lupsasca and a team of scientists at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative say the image may help provide more answers: Hidden within the glowing ring are an infinite number of sub-rings that offer a way to capture an even higher-resolution image and more precise data on the massive enigmas of the universe.

“They’re paradoxical objects. They’re the epitome of what we don’t understand,” said Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard. “And it’s very exciting to see something that you don’t understand.” Black holes are one of the great puzzles of modern physics — where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics collide. Scientists still know so little about them — their mass, how fast they spin, what’s inside their warped space-time. Until the EHT produced the first actual image, Strominger could only investigate their mysteries with complex mathematics, pencil, and paper. “I cried when I saw their picture,” he said. Then, he asked: “What can we learn from this?”

…“As we peer into these rings, first, second, third, etc., we are looking at light from all over the visible universe; we are seeing farther and farther into the past, a movie, so to speak, of the history of the visible universe,” said Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, in the Black Hole Initiative’s press release.

(17) A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new project at MIT may allow one to control lucid dreams (those in which you’re aware you’re dreaming)… at least a bit. As one drops into hypnagogia, that liminal state between being awake and being asleep, a wearable in development detects this and triggers a pre-selected one-word audio cue. In theory this may help the wearer to be like David Beckham and bend a lucid dream to follow a desired trajectory.

To say that the Popular Mechanics article’s author, Caroline Delbert, is skeptical of the usefulness of this would be an understatement. “Would You Wear This Glove to Hack Your Dreams?”

(18) DRAWING FOR HEALTH. “The Japanese monster going viral” – BBC has the story.

People across the world are drawing images of a mythical Japanese spirit believed to help ward off plagues.

In Japan, as parts of the country declare a state of emergency, people here have been reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic in a unique way: by sharing images online of a mystical, mermaid-like being believed to ward off plagues.

Largely forgotten for generations, Amabie, as it’s known, is an auspicious yokai (a class of supernatural spirits popularised through Japanese folklore) that was first documented in 1846. As the story goes, a government official was investigating a mysterious green light in the water in the former Higo province (present-day Kumamoto prefecture). When he arrived at the spot of the light, a glowing-green creature with fishy scales, long hair, three fin-like legs and a beak emerged from the sea.

Amabie introduced itself to the man and predicted two things: a rich harvest would bless Japan for the next six years, and a pandemic would ravage the country. However, the mysterious merperson instructed that in order to stave off the disease, people should draw an image of it and share it with as many people as possible.

(19) HEAL, SPOT HEAL! Spot the Robot Dog is trying out for a job as a telemedicine worker reports Forbes: “Spot The Robot Dog Roams The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Front Lines”.

Spot, the famous robot dog from Boston Dynamics, has been conscripted into service to work on the front lines helping medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers at the company, which was formerly a subsidiary of Google before being purchased by Softbank, have been working for the past six weeks to develop the means for Spot to help reduce the exposure of healthcare workers.

So far Spot has been working with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where robots outfitted with a special payload are deployed in triage tents and parking lots to help staff receive patients suspected to have COVID-19 and perform initial assessments.

“With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to reduce the number of necessary medical staff at the scene and conserve their limited PPE supply,” explains a release from Boston Dynamics.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A video on YouTube as “vol. 5 Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798/1861)” is an animation by Pasquale D’Amico of works by a 19th-century macabre Japanese artist.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/20 I Pass The Test. I Will Comment, And Go Into The Thread, And Remain Galadriel

(1) TFL. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid (24th January 2020) is filled to overflowing —

This week TFL takes a look at all the iconic characters getting third acts, what’s good, what’s bad and who’s missing. I also take a look at the excellent charity ‘zine Visitor’s Pass, inspired by The Magnus Archives, process the emotions of my partner finally being out of the Visa system, embrace the joy of getting weird fiction-related and talk about what’s next for The Full Lid.

Signal Boost this week covers upcoming show PodUK2020 and Escape Artists’ role there, fiercely inventive RPG Trophy hitting Kickstarter, Rachel E. Beck‘s latest cyberpunk thriller becoming available for pre-order and friend and colleague Kit Power prepping to launch the crowdfunding campaign for the first collection of his superb Ginger Nuts of Horror column, My Life in Horror

Here’s an excerpt:

Keep a very, very close eye on the Captain’s Biography series from Titan. Firstly because they’re immense fun (the ‘Edited by’ tag kills me every time) and secondly because they’re a useful canary. Or to put it another way, we’ll know the Pike-Era Enterprise show is a go (and I’m 99% sure it is), once the Chris Pike biography is announced…

Anyway, Janeway is a perfect fit for the Picard treatment. She successfully guided a disparate crew home across an incalculable distance, assisted in dealing a near-mortal blow to Starfleet’s most relentless enemy and happily accepted a promotion, something we know Picard struggled to do. I’d love to see a show following her in the same time period. Interestingly, and with typical eloquence, Kate Mulgrew is less sure. I can see why too. (Incidentally, Mulgrew is fantastic as the narrator of The Space Race, which I’ll be writing about the remainder of here shortly.)

(2) SURVIVOR. CrimeReads’ Maureen Johnson provides “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village”.

It’s happened. You’ve finally taken that dream trip to England. You have seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park. You rode in a London cab and walked all over the Tower of London. Now you’ve decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and stretch your legs in the verdant countryside of these green and pleasant lands. You’ve seen all the shows. You know what to expect. You’ll drink a pint in the sunny courtyard of a local pub. You’ll wander down charming alleyways between stone cottages. Residents will tip their flat caps at you as they bicycle along cobblestone streets. It will be idyllic.

Unless you end up in an English Murder Village. It’s easy enough to do. You may not know you are in a Murder Village, as they look like all other villages. So when you visit Womble Hollow or Shrimpling or Pickles-in-the-Woods or Nasty Bottom or Wombat-on-Sea or wherever you are going, you must have a plan. Below is a list of sensible precautions you can take on any trip to an English village. Follow them and you may just live….

 (3) THAT’S THE QUESTION. “Quiz of the week: Do you know Jones’s Python characters?” This week’s BBC News Quiz leads off with a Python question. How many Filers will get it?

(4) FADED. NPR film reviewer Mark Jenkins finds“No Love, Little Craft In Pulpy Body-Horror Flick ‘Color Out Of Space’ “.

It wasn’t like any color I’d ever seen before,” explains a dazed New England patriarch, trying to describe the unearthly phenomena at the center of Color Out of Space. Such an assertion might work in “The Colour Out of Space,” the 1927 story by H.P. Lovecraft, whose work oozes with mysteries that can’t be fully comprehended or even perceived. But viewers of the movie have already seen the unearthly hue by the time it’s so described.

It’s purple.

So are many things in this indigestible stew of modern sci-fi and antiquarian horror, notably Nicolas Cage’s characteristically unhinged performance. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a failed painter and would-be farmer who’s frantic to protect his wife, three kids, dog, and flock of alpacas. Alpacas? They’re among many additions to the tale that would bewilder its original creator.

Like this movie, Lovecraft’s pulp-fiction mythos combines extraterrestrial and occult threats, although the author was never concerned with plausible science. So it’s not such a stretch that the first Gardner to be introduced is one invented altogether by the filmmakers: teenage Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), whose blonde tresses are partly dyed, yes, purple. She’s an aspiring witch spied by the movie’s narrator, visiting hydrologist Ward Phillips (Elliot Knight), as she’s performing a ritual in the woods.

…In the original, the narrator arrives years after the events have occurred, and struggles to piece it all together. His investigation leaves questions and doubts, allowing readers to complete the story in their heads and decide for themselves what they believe. Color Out of Space takes a more explicit, less artful course: It turns ominous possibilities into a gory mess that proves utterly unbelievable.

(5) SOMTOW’S NEW OPERA. A story behind a paywall at the Financial Times, however, I was able to access the article from Google (no idea if that will work for you.) The headline is: “Helena Citrónová — Somtow Sucharitkul’s Auschwitz-set opera premieres in Bangkok.”

A work of intriguing moral ambiguity was sung with passionate commitment at the Thailand Cultural Centre 

When he first saw the BBC’s landmark 2005 documentary on Auschwitz, the Thai-born, British-educated composer and author Somtow Sucharitkul was immediately struck by a Slovakian prisoner’s interview about her relationship with a Nazi officer. Sensing its operatic potential, he soon fashioned a libretto inspired by their story. 

The music came later, mostly in fits and starts. But last autumn Somtow unveiled a suite from the opera during a European concert tour, and the piece quickly gained traction after a broadcast in Slovakia. All this helps explain why, amid this month’s 75th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, the opera Helena Citrónová made its premiere last week in Bangkok with the imprimatur of the German and Israeli ambassadors to Thailand. 

Opera Siam, which Somtow originally formed as the Bangkok Opera in 2001, is a scrappy outfit largely moulded from its founder’s diverse interests. Halfway through presenting south-east Asia’s first Ring Cycle — its Siegfried has been postponed at least twice — the company began devoting resources to Somtow’s epic cycle Ten Lives of the Buddha (it has now reached chapter six).

Emotionally, the evening took its cues directly from Cassandra Black’s Helena and Falko Hönisch’s Nazi guard Franz Wunsch, who acutely revealed their emotional range in one standout scene, in which Franz is interrogated and Helena is tortured (at opposite ends of the stage), smoothly transitioning from dramatic quartet to lyrical love duet. Other standouts (in multiple roles) were Stella Grigorian’s maternal presence as Helena’s sister and Franz’s mother, and Damian Whiteley’s all-round villainy as both chief prisoner and a German captain.

(6) A MERE FORCE GHOST OF ITSELF. Variety says things are looking dark: “Obi-Wan Kenobi Series at Disney Plus Loses Writer, Seeks to Overhaul Scripts”.

Pre-production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi-focused TV series in the works at Disney Plus has been put on hold as the streamer and Lucasfilm look to overhaul early scripts and find new writers, sources tell Variety.

Hossein Amini had been attached to write. The news follows recent talk that the entire series was being scrapped altogether.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 24, 1969 Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.

“What is it, Jim?”

“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”

– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost

This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventeenth episode of the final season.  It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911 C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaborative work resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, MaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their work in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1937 Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 76. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1949 John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 53. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash
  • Born January 24, 1970 Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, 50. It’s been awhile since I’ve done an academic so let’s have one. He’s not a specialist — instead he’s tackled the Gothic (The Cambridge Companion to the American Gothic), cult television (Return to Twin Peaks: New Approaches to Materiality, Theory, and Genre on Television), popular culture (Critical Approaches to Welcome to Night Vale: Podcasting Between Weather and the Void) and even cult film (Reading Rocky: The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Popular Culture). His The Age of Lovecraft anthology (co-edited with Carl Sederhlm) has an interview by him with China Miéville on Lovecraft.  
  • Born January 24, 1985 Remy Ryan, 35. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room eight years ago and she retired from acting not long after.

(9) RETRO ROCKETS. Cora Buhlert covers another 1944 contender — “Retro Review: ‘The Lake’ by Ray Bradbury”.

“The Lake” is a short story by Ray Bradbury, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Weird Tales and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found online here. This review is also crossposted to Retro Science Fiction Reviews.

Warning: There will be spoilers in the following….

(10) OVER THERE. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon review two new (in 1965) issues of British prozines: “[January 24, 1965] A New Beginning… New Worlds and Science Fantasy Magazine, January/February 1965”.

Summing up New Worlds

New Worlds is an eclectic mixture this month and there are signs that Moorcock is making his own stamp on the magazine. The addition of factual science articles and more literary reviews reflect this, and it must be said that the expansion of literary criticism has been one of Mike’s intentions since he took over as Editor. It’ll be interesting to see how the regular readers respond to it.

By including such material of course means that there’s less space for fiction, and I suspect that whilst that might ease Moorcock’s load a little – he is writing and editing a fair bit of it, after all – it may not sit well with readers. But then we are now monthly…

(11) TROPES IN SPACE. If, like me, you don’t remember ever hearing about 1990’s computer game “Master of Orion”, no problem — Digital Antiquarian tells us everything we missed. And about a few other PC sff games, too.

…A new game of Master of Orion begins with you choosing a galaxy size (from small to huge), a difficulty level (from simple to impossible), and a quantity of opposing aliens to compete against (from one to five). Then you choose which specific race you would like to play; you have ten possibilities in all, drawing from a well-worn book of science-fiction tropes, from angry cats in space to hive-mind-powered insects, from living rocks to pacifistic brainiacs, alongside the inevitable humans. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re cast into the deep end — or rather into deep space — with a single half-developed planet, a colony ship for settling a second planet as soon as you find a likely candidate, two unarmed scout ships for exploring for just such a candidate, and a minimal set of starting technologies.

(12) ABOUT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT. Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant hasn’t quite learned how to fake sincerity: “Things To Ponder”.

…Whilst I don’t sexually objectify (or subjectify, for that matter) attack helicopters in any way (the ones I saw in my younger days, I was usually trying to shoot down!), and I’m more of a transgressor than a transgender, I nevertheless sympathize with the author.

(13) DEER LORD ABOVE, WHY? SYFY Wire reports “Bambi to get The Lion King treatment as latest Disney ‘live-action’ remake”.

The Lion King won’t be the only Disney film about an animal losing a parent to be made even more realistic and emotional thanks to modern technology. Now the 1942 animated classic Bambi will be getting what Disney calls a “live-action” remake (even though it’s actually impressive CGI that aims to be photoreal).

(14) THE MUMMY SPEAKS. “Egyptian priest’s voice heard 3,000 years after death” — 2-second video.

The voice of a 3,000-year-old ancient Egyptian priest has been recreated using cutting-edge 3D printing and speech technology.

Nesyamun’s voice was reproduced as a vowel-like sound that is reminiscent of a sheep’s bleat.

The research – carried out by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of York and Leeds Museum – is published in the Scientific Reports journal.

He distinctly said “To blave.”

(15) MMM-MMM-GOOD? “Space cookies: First food baked in space by astronauts”.

Chocolate chip cookies have become the first food to be baked in space in a first-of-its-kind experiment.

Astronauts baked the cookies in a special zero-gravity oven at the International Space Station (ISS) last month.

Sealed in individual baking pouches, three of the cookies returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 7 January.

The aim of the experiment was to study cooking options for long-haul trips.

The results of the experiment, carried out by astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch, were revealed this week.

The question is: how do they taste? The answer: nobody knows, yet

A spokesman for Double Tree, the company that supplied the dough, told the BBC the cookies would “soon undergo additional testing by food science professionals to determine the final results of the experiment”.

These tests will establish whether the cookies are safe to eat.

(16) PROTO ST. AQUIN. “What we can learn about robots from Japan”, according to BBC writer Amos Zeeberg.

While the West tends to see robots and artificial intelligence as a threat, Japan has a more philosophical view that has led to the country’s complex relationship with machines.

At a certain 400-year-old Buddhist temple, visitors can stroll through peaceful stone gardens, sit for a quiet cup of tea, and receive Buddhist teachings from an unusual priest: an android named Mindar. It has a serene face and neutral appearance, neither old nor young, male nor female. Beyond the realistic skin covering its head and upper torso, it looks unfinished and industrial, with exposed tubes and machinery. But Mindar is philosophically quite sophisticated, discoursing on an abstruse Buddhist text called the Heart Sutra.

If you had to figure out where you could find this robotic priest, you might need only one guess to conclude it’s in Japan, at the beautiful Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto. Japan has long been known as a nation that builds and bonds with humanoid robots more enthusiastically than any other. While this reputation is often exaggerated abroad – Japanese homes and businesses are not densely populated by androids, as hyperventilating headlines imply – there is something to it.

Some observers of Japanese society say that the country’s indigenous religion, Shinto, explains its fondness for robots. Shinto is a form of animism that attributes spirits, or kami, not only to humans but to animals, natural features like mountains, and even quotidien objects like pencils. “All things have a bit of soul,” in the words of Bungen Oi, the head priest of a Buddhist temple that held funerals for robotic companion dogs.

According to this view, there is no categorical distinction between humans, animals, and objects, so it is not so strange for a robot to demonstrate human-like behaviours – it’s just showing its particular kind of kami. “For Japanese, we can always see a deity inside an object,” says Kohei Ogawa, Mindar’s lead designer.

Japan’s animism stands in contrast with the philosophical traditions of the West. Ancient Greeks were animistic in that they saw spirits in natural places like streams, but they thought of the human soul and mind as distinctly separate from and above the rest of nature.

(17) FAST SHOOTING. Via Slashdot: “Ultrafast Camera Takes 1 Trillion Frames Per Second of Transparent Objects, Phenomena”.

After developing the world’s fastest camera a little over a year ago, Caltech’s Lihong Wang decided that wasn’t good enough and started working on an even faster device. A new paper published in the journal Science Advances details a new camera from Wang that can take up to 1 trillion pictures per second of transparent objects.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Le Silence de la Rue” on Vimeo, Marie Opron discusses the hazards of city life.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, Daniel Dern, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew.]